Wednesday, January 27, 2021

God's Vision Series Week 2 - Locate Life

  A few weeks ago I was at a restaurant when I saw two people I knew from church. As I was leaving the restaurant I stopped by the table to say hello. This is something that’s pretty common, especially during the winter season. But what was uncommon was the response I got from one of the people. Within the few seconds that I had said hello, one of the two people said to me, “I won’t be back at church because of something you said.”

Now I say a lot of things, most of them probably pretty dumb, so in the few milliseconds I had, I shot through the things I had said in the last few weeks of sermons. This was right after I had talked about abortion, but I knew this person hadn’t been there for that talk, so it must have been something about the spiritual war we talked about or something involving the Christmas series we did. 

After a slight pause, I asked what is it that I said? Now, this wouldn’t be the first time I had said something dumb and caused someone to not come back to the church. So it didn’t surprise me that I would’ve said something that would do such a thing, but I am always interested in what I said, because I want to make sure that if I said it that it was correct. Or if I need to repent and ask for forgiveness because it was indeed something wrong. 

But the response I got took me back for a second. The person said to me, “You said that the church would be reaching out to the Rainbow people. They don’t deserve it. There are are other people out there that need it more than they do.”

Once I realized what had been said, I simply told the person, “I am sorry to hear that. Have a good day,” and then I walked away.

It is true, On December 27th, I had made an announcement that we were collecting necessity items, that we would put together into bags, and give out to the Rainbow people. If you don’t know who the Rainbow people are, there kind of like modern day Gypsies or hippies. There’s a lot of new age and pagan beliefs. A lot of nature worship happens. There’s Wiccans, and occult practices that go on. Some, like every population, steal and cause problems. And several years ago, there was even a movement in town that didn’t want to allow the Isaiah 58 Church to set up shop, because there was a fear that the Rainbows would be embolden and children would run off with them.

So there is a lot of malice and fear towards the Rainbow people here in town. So I understand some of the possible reasonings that would underline this person’s desire not to have dealings with the Rainbow people. But here’s the thing, first off, we as believers do not get to choose who the Gospel goes out to. This is what the Lord said to Ezekiel in the third chapter of his book, “17 Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood (Ezekiel 3:17-18).” 

The command of go into all the world, is a mandate from God to his people, and we must be careful that we do not pronounce who receives the Gospel of Jesus and who doesn’t. 

Secondly, it is true that there are many people that need to be reached out to. In fact for almost ten years, my sole purpose at this church was to reach out to children, youth, and families. Since 2015 I have added to that older adults. So in my own ministry time here, I have seen us give 100% of our ministry outreach to those four people groups. Since the inception of this church, we as a body of believers, have never taken time and reached out to the Rainbow people that I know of. Even in this one act of reaching out, we’re not engaging in a full-time ministry to the Rainbow people, but one simple act of kindness. Will in flower into something more? I don’t know. But it was laid on the heart of a member of our church that asked if we could do something. And so, we are. 

God has placed a calling on all Christians to reach this world for Christ, and there will be an accountability to that when we stand before him in eternity. The reality is, it is wrong of us to ever chose who gets the Gospel and who doesn’t. Who gets the love and compassion that Christ says to have, and who doesn’t. Because if God treated us like that, none of us would have ever seen the love of God, we talked about last week, and is incapsulated Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

If Jesus died for us at our dirtiest and wickedest, how can we not locate the needs arounds us, and how can we not present the Gospel to whoever would hear it?  

This brings us to our second week in our mini-sermon series, of God’s Vision. In our first week we talked about the original calling of God on this church body. That God brought this fellowship of believers together with the specific call to reach out to the children, youth, and young families in this town. And I shared how God spoke to me saying, that if we ever left that calling, we would no longer be following him. 

It’s in that understanding of what the calling of this church is, that he directed us towards his eternal vision for not only us, but for all Christians, as it is found in Mark 12:29-31. We here at the Alliance Church of Quartzsite express that eternal vision like this, “being loved by God, we lift him up in our worship, locating and meeting the needs around us, and pointing people back to the eternal life only found in Jesus.”

Last week we covered the first two aspects of this vision, love and lift. This week, let’s dive into the second two aspects, of locate and life.

Locating the needs around us and meeting those needs are found in passages like 1st John 3:16-18. Where last week we saw the love of God in verse 16, but now we’ll see how that love works itself out to the people around us. 1st John 3 reads like this, starting in verse 16, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

We showed last week how we are to respond to the love of God by lifting him up with a life of worship. And within that worship, is the meeting of other people’s needs. Here, John tells us that if we have the means to help, we must help.

The Hebrew writer also agrees that the physical helping of others is an act of worship, when they write this in Hebrews 13:15-17, “15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

And in Romans 12:9-18, listen to the back and forth of how the lifting of God up in worship and doing good to others is intertwined, “9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

We are a people called out of sin by the love of God to lift him up in our worship and to locate and meet the needs of the people around us. Jesus’ work on the cross did not just restore the right relationship we have with God himself, but also with each other. This is why it is so important to meet together as a church. There are physical needs that we are to help with as we grow spiritually as God’s people. 

The love of God and the love for people are so interconnected that when Jesus was asked to give the greatest commandment, at the end of revealing loving God and loving people as ourselves, without skipping a beat he said, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” The is recorded in Matthew 22:40.

We cannot underscore enough the necessity to meet the needs of the people around us. If we think we can just go through our Christian walk, singing songs to God as a form of worship, then we are missing half of the vision of God for our lives. Helping people is the type of sacrifice that we are called to. This is why John writes the words we read earlier, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1st John 3:18).”

But that’s not it. The trap that we can so easily fall into is the trap of seeing the finite as the infinite. What I mean by that, is that we get so bogged down in helping the physical alignments, that we forget about why we worship, and why we do good for others. This is in fact what the devil tried to do with Jesus when we said this in Matthew 4:3, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

The devil tempted Jesus to be bogged down with his physical needs, but Jesus responded with eternal focus in verse 4, “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

And we need to do the same thing. As we locate the needs and meet them, we must be pointing to the eternal, we must point to the eternal life that is only found through Jesus. 

Verses like John 1:4, where John speaks of Jesus, "In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”

And later on in the Gospel of John, where Jesus says of himself, “47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (John 6:47-51).”

Or as John speaks of Jesus in the fifth chapter of his first letter,, “11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:11-13).”

As believers, we must point to the life that is only found in Jesus, because it is the culmination of all that God envisions and that we’ve talked about. God loved us by sending Jesus to die for us, because we have sinned. We have broken the standard of God. The good divine law that flows from his own character. We broke it because we, who were created to live as a perfect creation, rejected God and his ways, to instead pursue our own law, trying to make ourselves gods. Even though we do this, God still loves us. And it was God the Son, that took on human flesh, lived with his creation the perfect life following God that we were meant to, but didn’t. It was the fully God, fully man Jesus who was crucified, taking our punishment upon himself for our breaking of God’s law. It was that love, shown on the cross, that whoever accepts Jesus as their Savior, by repenting of sin, seeking God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ work, and accepting his free gift through the cross, will be brought out of death’s clutches and into the eternal life of Jesus. We then respond to God’s great love, in the worship of God, the taking care of people, and the proclamation of the Gospel, in an endless cycle until Jesus’ return.

In fact this why Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

That full promised life is both here in this finite time we have, and into eternity to come.

And this message of locating the needs of people and pointing them to the life only found in Jesus is needed right now. 

Since the pandemic, small businesses have seen an average decline of 20% in revenue. Because of that decline in revenue, an estimated 420,000 small business have failed. Because of the lost of jobs, roughly 1 in 5 Americans were projected to not be able to pay their rent ( And that’s not the worst news out there. But many are in need, and we need to be prepared to locate and meet those needs in the name of Jesus, as God directs.

In June of 2020, the CDC took a survey of adults, which revealed that since the beginning of the lockdowns, 31% of American adults were struggling with depression, 13% had either started or increased their substance abuse, and 11% had contemplated suicide within the previous 30 days of the survey (

People are losing what little of this life they have been able to experience, and without Jesus, they will not experience eternal life either. No matter what your stance on how we should approach the pandemic, as believers, we are called to help as God leads to meet the needs as they come. And as we see those needs, we are to also point people back to Jesus’ eternal life. This is what we are called to do by God himself.

If we help people without pointing them back to Jesus for eternal life, all we’ve done is helped a dying patience not feel the pain as they pass away, lost to eternal separation from God. Likewise, if we share Jesus’ eternal life, but give no help to the physical pain people are facing, then our words are empty to the pain that people are experiencing. 

The Gospel calls us to both, not excluding one for the other. And so we must do what God envisions us to do. We are loved by him to lift him up in worship, locating needs and meeting them, while pointing people back to the eternal life only found in Jesus. 

So my challenge for you this week, is to do one kind act for someone you know, who doesn’t know Jesus as their Savior. And when you do, in someway, point them back to Jesus. They might ask, why you are doing this? And all you have to say is something like this, “Because God loved you and me enough to die for us, and I want to show you that same love because I want you to know Jesus as your Savior, like I know him as mine.”

Let us not love with words only, but with actions and in truth. Amen.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

God's Vision Series Week 1 - Love and Worship

  Every month, the president of the Alliance denomination sends out a video that covers a number of topics. These topics range from what is happening in missions, to what is happening in local ministries, to what is happening in the denomination as a whole. This past week his video was on vision. One of the things he looked back on was how at this same time last year pastors were sharing their visions for 2020. The president then made the remark that, how many of us could have envisioned the year we had? 

This stopped me for a moment to think and look back on the different series we have done at the beginning of the last two years. Two years ago we did a series on the legacy that we are leaving behind. One year ago the series was on being commissioned for God’s work. In both cases, those could be seen as visions for the year, but in both cases, they were focused on eternal work. 

Now looking back on the year that we’ve had, visions that are two narrow in their scope never account for years like 2020, but visions that focus on the eternal, always account for times such as these.  

And it’s this idea of eternal vision that brings us into our second mini-sermon series of January, where we’ll be looking at two sides of the vision that God has given us here at the Alliance Church. This series is following our Not Political series, because in times such as these, when uncertainty is all the more prevalent, we need to make sure our focus is in the right spot. 

In Hebrews 12:1-3, the writer of the book tells us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

In the context, the Hebrew writer just got done talking about those that had come before us. Those mighty men and women that had proceeded us in their following of God, and who have give us a standard by which to represent Christ to the world. It’s in that context, that the Hebrew writer tells the people of his day, and by the Holy Spirit us today, that we are to persevere in the race that has been set out before us. That we must keep our eyes on Jesus, and that though we may encounter opposition from the world, we must not grow weary and lose heart.

We have done a similar context. In our last series, we looked at those that were the first writers of the Church. We looked at three areas at which they dealt with, so that we can begin seeing that there are issues we face today, that the early Church also faced. And so, we must take the same stand as they did. Now, I know some of you were disappointed that we didn’t continue that series, looking at other non-political issues, but I hope that it motivated you to look into it for yourself. And as I stated in that series, I try very hard only to speak on things that God directs me to, and I try not to go outside those parameters.

Yet, as we move into our second mini-series this month, I hope that we will see how we are to live out our lives in the coming months and years, as we move ever closer to the day when Jesus returns to fully establish his kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.

Now, in 2015 Pastor Jeff and I attended one of our denominations general councils. Through that council time, Jeff felt God’s leading to step down as the lead pastor of our church body. In the coming months, he spoke with the elders, and together they asked if I would be willing to step into that position. I spent the coming weeks in prayer and seeking after God if that was the direction he wanted. Eventually, we felt that it was and through that prayer time, God spoke to me about what he wanted from us in the coming years. 

God spoke clearly in the vision that he had for our church body. See, the Alliance Church in Quartzsite was established to reach the children, teens, and young families in this town. Does that mean we don’t reach out to others? Of course not, yet this was the foundational calling of this church body. From the first Bible studies, this church body was ordained to do this work. Jeff, carried this torch, and through him and others, greatly expanded the work that was being done. One of those expansions was the hiring of a youth pastor. In communicating to me, God was very clear that this was why he established this church body, and that if we ever moved away from this work, we would be usurping the calling he had given us. 

Yet within this calling, God spoke a vision of how we were to move forward. Through Biblical texts like Mark 12, God has grounded the future work of the Alliance Church in Quartzsite for years to come.

But within the context of the world we find ourselves, as we see an increase, not just of political voices, but of Christian voices as well, being pushed out. And as avenues to express our faith continue to be restricted, the question arises, how are we as believers to respond? It’s in this series where we’ll see how the four part vision that God has given us here, and really his people as a whole, we’ll help us engage in the world around us for Christ’s kingdom.

The four part vision the church is stated like this, being loved by God, to lift him up in worship, locating and meeting the needs of people, while pointing back to the life only found in Jesus. This week, we’ll zero in on the first two aspects of the vision, loved by God and lifting him up in worship. 

Verses such as John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” And 1st John 3:16, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”, speak to the love of God for us. That we are sinners separated from God because of what we have done in rebellion against God’s created order. We have done things that God has said not to do. We have lied, stolen, corrupted, hated, lusted, and a myriad of other things that have caused this world to be separated from the perfect holiness of God. Yet in that, God loves us still and does everything necessary for us to return to him through what Jesus did on the cross. God the Son comes to the earth, takes on human flesh, lives the perfect life, and yet is killed by his creation. But through that death, God takes all the punishment of sin that humanity has caused and places it on Jesus.

As Romans 5:18 & 19 states, “18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

Through Jesus, humanity’s separation can be remedied, and all it takes is a confession of repentance, and acceptance of God’s work. Repentance, that we recognize that we have sinned and fallen short of God’s holy perfection (Romans 3:23), asking God’s forgiveness for that sin. Then we accept Jesus’ work on the cross on our behalf, recognizing that there is no amount of work that we can do to earn that forgiveness, but that it is a free gift given to us by God (Ephesians 2:8 & 9).

This is the first aspect of the vision, that God loves us and doesn’t leave us in a state of our sin, which leads to eternal death, but he does everything short of forcing us to accept him, so that we can spend eternity with him.

In the second part of the vision, verses such as 1st Chronicles 16:23-24 & 28-29, speaks to the worship of God. It reads, “Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. 24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples…Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.”

Or Psalm 100 verses 1 & 2, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.”

This responsive worship of God is what follows the love of God. When we reoogninize all that God has done for us, our worship of God must follow. Because, it’s in the worship of God that we are actually transformed into the people God intended us to be. And through worship, we realize just what God wants from us in accordance with his plan.

Romans 12:1-2 states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The love of God, that is most notably shown through the work of Jesus on the cross and the worship of God, that we return back to him, are more than ever needed to be recognized and carried out.

There will come a time, when the proclamation of God’s love through the cross will get believers persecuted. We see this throughout the world with our brothers and sisters. Comparing Open Doors World Watch List from 2019 into 2021, it was recorded that in 2019 there were 260 million Christians living in places where high levels of persecution occur. Today, that number has grown to 340 million. Looking back in 2019, 9,488 church or other Christian buildings were destroyed specifically because they housed Christians. 3,711 Christians were imprisioned without formal arrests made, trials being held, or recorded sentences being carried out. And 2,983 Christians were killed specifically for their faith ( ;

This reality is coming home right now. We are already seeing Christian voices being drummed out, and it will only get more frequent as we march towards the return of Jesus. Yet, we cannot stop sharing the Gospel. We must resign ourselves right now to speaking the Gospel even if it will get us persecuted, imprisoned, or killed. Yet on our lips, as we share the Gospel of Jesus, we must remember, the spiritual war we talked about a few weeks ago. We must remember the lostness of humanity. That they really don’t know what they do, as Jesus said on the cross (Luke 32:34). And we must have a heart that breaks for the people, as Jesus did. In Luke 19:41-42 we get this moment of God’s heart breaking. It reads like this, “As he (Jesus) approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’” We must have the same heart as God. That we weep over the people lost in their sin and who have wandered far.

And as this reality comes closer and closer, we must not stop worshiping God. When King Darius of the Medes and the Persians decreed that he was the only one to be worshiped for thirty days, and a terrible fate would befall those who worshiped other gods, it says of Daniel, in Daniel 6:10, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” In the jail cell, after Paul and Silas were arrested for sharing the Gospel, it reads in Acts 16:25, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”

The Gospel being shared and the worship of God’s people need to both continued as we move closer to the return of Jesus. These things are not political, and it is these things that we are called to. We must share the Gospel and we must worship God. No government has say over these things. No human should stop us from accomplishing what God has called us to. And we must make a commitment to stand firm in both. To share the love of God through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, the core of the Gospel message, and to meet together worshiping him.

My brothers and sisters, we face new uncertain times, but the Church and the people of God before it’s establishment, have always endured such times. There is a precedent of faithful men and women to face the word and sword of the persecuting crowds, but we must not falter in our love and worship. Because as God has loved, we must love, and as God has called us to worship, we must worship. In the face of uncertainly and even to the point of death, we must share the love of God, and worship him in front of the world. 

Today, I ask that you make that commitment. To make a commitment to share the Gospel. To make a commitment to continue to worship God in the face of both subtle and overt persecution. 

And in the face of what is to come we must hold firm to our faith, and proclaim, just as the three young men once did in Daniel 3:16, where they spoke to the king who demanded worship of an idol,  “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Today, in your bulletins there is a piece of paper that reads, “I make a commitment before God and man that I will share the Gospel of Jesus, and I will worship him in front of the nations.”

As you leave today, if you desire to make that proclamation, take that piece of paper and stick it on your door at home so that it can be seen from the outside. Not for you salvation, but as a commitment to the calling on your life. And may we all stand strong as we march towards the day that our great and glorious King Jesus makes his return. Amen.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Not Political, Week 3 - “Ambrosian Walk ”

  Well, this week certainly was interesting. You know, when God brings these sermon series to me, I jot the basic overall structure of it down with working titles and Scriptures. I do this so that I can go back and be reminded of what God wants. This week I thought I knew what we were going to talk about, but then when I sat down, I read the bare bone structure of the series, and you know what the working title for week 3 was? Submitting and standing against leaders. I read that Wednesday afternoon and just laughed to myself. What God has planned out matched with the events of that day.

This has been a politically charged week, but really, what week hasn’t for the past several, can I say years at this point? Now with the protests, and riot that broke out at the capital, we as Christians must condemn the violence. I have my own thoughts on the matter, but those thoughts are not on the docket today. In fact, I try to separate and share with you, as best I can, not my feelings or thoughts on any one topic, but rather what God is calling us to. 

Its for this very reason that we are doing this Not Political sermon series. I have my thoughts on politics, which I am willing to share with anyone that would listen, and it can seem, with those that do not as well. But as Christians, we are called to, in a sense, be beyond politics. That’s not to say that we are not to involve ourselves in the political sphere, I think that if we don’t, it is to our determinate, especially here in the US. Yet, we must realize the difference between those issues that are solely political and therefore finite in there application, and those issues that move beyond the political realm and speak to eternal realities. 

That’s why in our first week of the series, we talked about the reality that every issue we discuss whether with an eternal or finite application, has at its root a spiritual war. Behind the scenes in our lives, there is a spiritual war that rages. Every interaction we have, every thought that crosses our minds, every response we act on, and every problem we encounter has a spiritual battle that’s being fought. And so, we must realize that as we talk, we’re dealing with that battle and we must be prepared for it. This is why the Scriptures in Ephesians 6 tell us to to put on the full armor of God, because the battle is everywhere.

Then in our second week, we began to discuss these issues, tackling the controversial topic of abortion. We not only went through the biblical stance and historical precedent, but we showed how we as Christians are called to make a stand against the act of abortion as have our predecessors in the faith.

But let’s not stop with the controversy yet, instead let’s talk about what we as Christians are to do in the face of a government that we may or may not like.

Here is the reality of the situation, most attenders of our church body are on the more conservative side of the political isle. We do have several that I know of that are on the more liberal side as well, but more so than not, our congregants tend to be more conservative. I won’t bore you with all the intricacies of my political beliefs, but I am, in the wide scope of things conservative myself. And in the last presidential election cycle, more often than not, conservatives voted for President Trump. Now, some didn’t and I can understand their reasoning, and I can understand why, even now, those that voted for Trump believe that he should still be the president. 

But as of Thursday, President Trump has said that he would transfer power, meaning  that Vice-president Biden will be the president, unless an act of God happens from now until January 20th. And then we’ll see how long until Harris becomes president, that’s a joke. 

Now here’s the thing, I know the beliefs of what many of you believe a Biden-Harris presidency means. But the reality is, and one of the first things we talked about in the opening of our sermon series is that, we are first and foremost citizens of heaven. And no matter what happens in the next four years, or eight years, or a hundred years, we have been called to specific actions by our Savior, and it doesn’t matter what type government we live under or who is leading that government.

So let’s see what the Scriptures say about how we as followers of Jesus are to respond to government.

In the oppressive, sometimes it would seem sadistic, rule of the Romans, the Jews wanted nothing more than to rebel. Playing off this, some Jewish leaders came to Jesus as recorded in Mark 12, starting in verse 14, and asked “…‘Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?’ But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. ‘Why are you trying to trap me?’ he asked. ‘Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.’ 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. 17 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’ And they were amazed at him.”

Here, Caesar represents the government, any government, and the question, what should we do in response to a government we don’t like, is a natural one for us to have. Because within us, there is a tendency towards rebellion due to sin, in which we first rebelled against God. But also, if we are truly citizens of heaven then how do we work within a system that might be counteractive to the ways of God?

So in this question, Jesus gives us two sides to the answer, we must give to the government what is the governments and we must give what is God’s back to God. 

Let’s look at the first side of the answer, giving back to the government what is the government.

Romans 13:1-7 reads, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

Peter follows this up in 1 Peter 2:13-17, “13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”

And so, even in the oppressive Roman government, submission to authority was required by all who followed Jesus and call on him as Savior and Lord. And it’s in times when we are called to submit, even to those that we do not want to, that the Lord aspect of who Jesus is in our lives really comes home. But that’s not the last word on the subject.

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:7-12, “7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. 9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

How we respond in times such as these, whether in violence or in peace, reflects how our testimony among non-Christians is received. Take the COVID-19 situation, if we as Christians run around fearful of the possibility of getting the virus; if we respond to the situation as many in the world do, then what is the difference between a believer and a non-believer? It is the same with submission to government. If we run around constantly rebelling against government, then how are we really different than the world? David Barton, the founder of WallBuilders which is dedicated to showing how the US was founded on the Bible and Judeo-Christian principles, has said that the average constitution lasts only about eleven years. There’s a reason why the US has been under the same constitution for almost 250 years, though we have had our share of wars and problems, believers have sought to deal with a lot of those through peace.

It is because of verses like Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God…”, that Christians throughout the centuries have done as much as they could to seek peaceful resolutions to situations, and we should as well.

This is why the early Church writers wrote things like this, “Above all, Christians are not allowed to correct with violence the delinquencies of sins. [...] For he that is made good by compulsion of another is not good; for he is not what he is by his own choice. For it is the freedom of each one that makes true goodness and reveals real wickedness (” That was written by Clement of Alexandria in the late 2nd century, still under Roman rule. 

Other early church writer, Lactantius (lack-tan-tea-us), lived through times such as the Diocletian persecution, which has been called some of the worse persecutions the Church faced in ancient times. He wrote this, “God might have bestowed upon his people both riches and kingdoms, as he had given previously to the Jews, whose successors and posterity we are. However, he would have Christians live under the power and government of others, lest they should become corrupted by the happiness and prosperity, slide into luxury, and eventually despise the commandments of God. For this is what our ancestors did.”

And so this early understanding that it is not so much the place of the Christian to change governments, but rather to live within those governments and while there, to show the goodness of God, through our sacrificial and holy living.

That’s the first side of the answer, give to Caesar what is Caesar. Now, let’s look at the second side of the answer Jesus gives, give to God what is God’s.

A common response to the first side of the answer of Christians living within a government that is antithetical to the Gospel is, what if we try to live peaceful lives but because of our faith, they try hurt us in some way?

It’s to this that we get passages such as Matthew 10:26-33, where Jesus says, “26 ‘So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’”

And in other places like Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus says, “11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Persecution due to our faith is bound to happen. The first 300 years after Jesus death and resurrection, saw the Church in and out of persecution. Even when Christianity became an accepted religion, those that stood on biblical truth have always been persecuted, even by those that claim to be Christian. Right now, all over the world, the Church is persecuted. We in the western world have had it easy for hundreds of years, and it is becoming ever more clear that our time is coming. We need to stand as our brothers and sisters have throughout the centuries and throughout the world. And it’s at our faith that we must draw the line. The same apostle Peter who wrote, “3 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority…” also spoke these words as recorded in Acts 4:19-20, when standing before the Jewish council after being arrested for preaching Jesus, “…‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’”

Our faith must be the thing that distinguishes us, and it must be the thing that causes us to be persecuted. If our persecution comes at the hands of not living peaceful under our governments, then our testimony will not be one that brings glory to God, but to ourselves. 

In speaking of his own trek towards martyrdom Ignatius of Antioch wrote, “I write to the Churches, and impress on them all, that I shall willingly die for God, unless ye hinder me. I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable good-will towards me. Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ ("

And Polycarp, following after him several decades later, was recorded as saying, “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? Bring forth what thou wilt (" This, was after he was told that all he had to do was deny Christ and he, an old man at this time, would not have to suffer a horrible death.

It’s living within both sides of this issue that I think the life of Ambrose of Milan is a life that we could look towards as an example. Ambrose was a man that was hurled by the populace to become the Bishop of Milan around the late 300s. He was a Christian and a politician, but not a theologian, nor a person who had as his goal to become a full time minster. But Ambrose was so loved by the people because he was a seeker of peace, honest and forthright man, that when the bishopric of the city became available, the people chanted for Ambrose to take the role. Though he wasn’t a theologian, Ambrose took the position, studied theology, and became a giant in the faith. Ambrose is my favorite early church father because he wasn’t a man that sought to be the head of the churches in Milan, but was chosen because he was a faithful man of Christ. The peace of his life showed through. In addition there were two moments in his bishopric that can teach us what it means to stand firm in our faith against governmental authorities.

The first one came when Ambrose stood for the orthodoxy of the faith. And what I mean by the orthodoxy of the faith, is that Ambrose stood against those that would change who Jesus was from fully God and fully man, to a created Demi-god that was less than God the Father. This unorthodox belief was called Arianism, and it came to a head when the Roman Emperor of the time, who was in favor of these Arianists, ordered Ambrose to give two of the church buildings in Milan to the group. Instead, Ambrose and a handful of his congregation stood against these calls, going to the point of locking themselves in the buildings and refusing to leave them. And so, Ambrose stood against the government in light of holding true to the faith.

But that wasn’t the only time Ambrose stood against an Emperor. In 388 AD, the third Emperor that Ambrose dealt with, was named Theodosius. A riot over a chariot race had broken out, and Emperor Theodosius had quelled the riot and in doing so, had slaughtered many people. In response, Ambrose barred Theodosius from partaking in fellowship with the Church. Mind you, Theodosius sided with Ambrose in areas of theology, especially against Arianism. Responding to Ambrose’s barring, Theodosius came to the church to remove the Bishop from his post, and Ambrose famously tells the Emperor to come get him. Ambrose told Theodosius that what the Emperor did was wrong and he, Ambrose, will stand by his decision until the Emperor repented.

In Ambrose we see the working out of what we as Christians are called to do. On the one hand we are called to a peaceful life that shines in front of all people, and on the other hand we are called to stand against that which not of our faith. We did this last week when we talked about standing against abortion. We did this several weeks ago when we talked about standing against the Progressive teachings that are seeping into the Church. So we must do both. If we are then persecuted for living godly lives, then our persecution will be a light for other people, but if our persecution comes because we are doing wrong ourselves, then it will be a deterrent for others.

We are called to live in such times as these. When we feel like things are against us, we must ask the question, are they against me because I rebel and do not seek peace, or are they against me because I live as Christ does?

The words of 1st Peter 2:16 speak volumes here, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.”

For us as Christians, freedom does not come from a document. I love the constitution of the United States, because I believe it best represents the closest thing we can get to a human government based on Scripture. But my freedom does not come from it. No, my freedom comes from Christ himself. That freedom is lived out when I hold tightly to Jesus. To his commands, and his decrees. In the face of those that desire me to bow the knee to any other Emperor, my freedom is walked out even in man’s shackles. To echo Polycarp, twenty years I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? Bring forth what thou wilt.

But we can only say this when we are living a life seeking peace as much as we can, so that our testimony is unblemished by the strife of this world.

So my challenge to you this week is this, has your testimony as a Christian been blemished by the politics of this world? If you took a step back and asked yourself, has my language and action reflected a peaceful response to the political world, or not? If not, we need to repent. There are things I have personally said, that I have had to repent about in this election cycle. Does that mean we can’t speak out and hold political views? No, but the question we must ask as we do so is, do I express those views in a way that brings or takes away glory from Jesus?

And as we move into the future under a new representative government, we must make a commitment to be known for our dedication to peace and righteous living as we follow after God. Does that mean we don’t take biblical stands, of course not. Does that mean we do not speak up when we see injustice or bad things happen, no. But it means that we drench our words and actions in the blood of Jesus, so that in all things we bring him glory.

This should be our goal, whether we like the government or not, to be ambassadors of Christ to a dying world. Because he has sent us out to a world that once reject our Savior, but to which he responded on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 32:34).” Let us have that same response as well. Amen.